The Search for (Authentic) Community

Yesterday I read an interview with Malcolm Gladwell, author of Tipping Point and Outliers. He is a fascinating person, with what looks to be a fascinating new book called David and Goliath. But all his books aside, what got my attention in the interview was the thread that ran throughout about his return to faith. It’s a common story: Grew up a believer, left organized religion, sensed the presence of God, and then looked for a way for his faith to become his own. That may even be your story.

The interviewer then asked Gladwell if he had a faith community, and he responded, “Not yet.”

My guess is that thousands of people in the Houston area have a similar story to Gladwell’s. If this is your story, and if you have somehow stumbled upon this blog while looking for a community of faith, allow me to make an offer: We are a family-sized community of believers who strive to practice authentic faith. The Bering Drive Church of Christ is a church that reads the Bible together, and looks for ways to live by the teachings of Jesus. We are not afraid to admit when we are wrong about something, and constantly look for ways to grow closer to God. But most of all, we try to be a supportive family to one another, and to those who come our way who are searching for authentic community.

Church at the Black Walnut

Bering Drive Church of ChristThe ghost of church past took me on a ride down memory lane this morning. I remembered a time when my life was dominated by “doing church.” Sunday morning class… Sunday morning worship… Sunday night worship… Wednesday night classes… It was all in the name of community, but somewhere along the way, I noticed that the majority of the time spent at “church” was seated, facing forward, and listening. In order to get to know the people sitting next to me, we had to arrange some sort of lunch meeting, or yet another get together. For some, it was a fifth or sixth gathering for the week. For the introverted half of the population, that was asking a bit much.

Fast forward to the Bering Drive Church of Christ. When I, your friendly neighborhood preacher, began the interview process here, I asked about the scheduled times for classes and worship. My main contact, Paul–(one of the shepherds at the time; not the apostle)–told me that he main face-time for the church was Sunday morning. That’s it. Sure, small groups meet on Sunday evenings in homes. Women’s Wednesday morning Bible study happens in the fall and spring. But as far as regular class and worship, we are all together on Sunday mornings.

What I noticed after being with Bering for a while was the way people found opportunities to be together outside the Sunday morning regular time slot. Rather than facing forward listening to yet another explanation of Romans, people met in restaurants and hospital rooms to sit and share life together. No reason to hurry off to the next meeting or class. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with studying Romans. We are actually doing that in Wednesday morning Women’s Bible Study at the present. But what makes these official class times so good is the family connections we bring to the table at other places.

And that brings us to the Black Walnut Cafe on a Monday night. Last night, twenty-two women from the Bering Drive Church of Christ met for supper. Simple as that. Get together, eat, talk, laugh, share life. Perhaps we can even entertain the possibility that the meal was a form of church. The women were gathered because of their common confession in Jesus. This was more than social time. It was an opportunity to BE the church with one another. Not a program, nor a planned initiative to grow, nor a collection of information. Just a time to be together in the name of Jesus.

And that is all.


Church Not Church

Bering Drive Church of Christ

Settling in to my fourth year at Bering, one of the things I love the most about this church is that it is not a typical church. Never has been. From our beginnings fifty years ago, this church has never been afraid to challenge “the way things have always been.” While tradition has a beautiful place in our worship and service to others, Bering refuses to get stagnate simply to keep everyone pacified.

For example, Bering was the first congregation in the “Church of Christ” tradition to be fully inclusive of women in the life of the church. That may not seem like a big deal to other denominations, but to us, where many young girls grew up believing that worship was a spectator event for them, it was (and still is) a big deal. And when I say that we are fully “gender inclusive,” this is more than “allowing” a woman to make an occasional announcement at the end of a worship service. In fact, gender inclusivity has become such a part of the life of our church that it is really no longer an issue. It is just the way things are.

One of the reasons I am writing this down is to put it on record here on our new blog and new website. Research tells us that we are supposed to put keywords on our website like “gender inclusive” and “welcoming” and “all ages.” That will bump us up on Google, which will direct more people to Bering.

But with all of the effort to get the website noticed, this is really about church that’s not obsessed with church. Or to put it another way, when church becomes the point of church we miss the point of church. With me so far?

So let’s say, for example, that you are reading this entry, but have never been to Bering. Perhaps you are thinking about coming for a visit this Sunday morning. Let me tell you what you can expect:

You can expect to shake hands with a lot of people. Bering is a welcoming place that loves new faces. We are a family-sized church, so you will not see all the bells and whistles of a megachurch. Instead, you will walk in and see a family. A family practicing authentic faith from week-to-week.

You can expect a pretty simple approach to worship. We sing songs, we read Scripture, we take communion every Sunday, and we preach messages from the Bible that challenge and uplift us. We are a Bible-based church that does not worship the Bible. We worship the Lord, and look to Scripture as a way that God continues to share abundant life with us today.

You can expect to see people of all ages who are joined together as one body. As a family sized church, we practice an intergenerational faith where people from all backgrounds and generations live out our faith and learn from one another. Our children’s classes, for instance, are likely to be taught by any number of our adults who care deeply about sharing our faith with generations to come.

And you can expect to be a part of more than what a website can show you. Most importantly, you can expect to be welcomed into a family.